Memory in Place

Nostalgia’s vague presence settles over me as I recall visiting my Dad at work in the Cooper Square offices of the New Hermes Engraving Machine Company decades ago. This weekend marks his yahrzeit; he died four years ago after the Jewish fast day Tisha B’av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple. The children of Israel sank to an all time spiritual low, but a glimmer of hope redeems them at the end. Moses (Moshe) also speaks from his near deathbed as we start reading the fifth book of the Torah. My Dad, Morris Kaufman, was also a Moshe. His words come to me in images of his beloved Village (East and Greenwich, that is). This one’s for him: In the chill heat, July blankets the city like a warm snow. Passengers underground spread their gloomy cheer in shrill conversations with their devices. The subway is no cocoon. Stepping outside, the mind creates a cloudy mirror, a mirage of possibility, turning the day in its favor. I select its delights, ignoring the tiny giant cracks in the baked sidewalks along Eighth Street. Ramen shops have replaced the tattoo parlors and earring emporiums of my youth. The Bohemian hipsters look too affluent to be authentic. Iced tea is $4, Lattes $5. Oatmeal with chia seeds, $9. Morris, a salesman and artist, took us for $5 blintz lunches at the Ukrainian Restaurant and to sidewalk art shows. Today’s gentrified Village might jar him but also appeal to his urban sensibility and artistic scrutiny. Where have all the starving artists gone? What’s that monstrosity on the Bowery? What idiot spends $5 on coffee? Who do you remember? What is there legacy to you in all its complexities?


About sheilaklewis

As a writing coach, meditation teacher, writer, and academic tutor, I'm passionate about words and the silent spaces between words. In this context, I run book clubs and writers' groups where the resonance of carefully crafted words can spark readers and writers to share their own stories. Connecting through conversation; making memories matter; embracing editing and revision, and imaginative wordplay are some solo and collective outcomes. I came to what I call my "Meditate Write Now" practice after years of art-making, writing grants, curriculum, children's stories, and more. Meditation kept my mind from meandering too far off point and also led me to write from the still point within. May our paths cross in creative journeys across time and internet connections! Other details: My husband and I are the parents of two amazing sons and one daughter-in-law, and smitten grandparents of Micah (born December, 2013). I don't drive, and have lived in the same apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for too long.
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6 Responses to Memory in Place

  1. Lia says:

    Sheila – my father’s mother was jewish, something no one knew until I teased it out of her when she was about 90. I always wondered why this, and that, and this, and that – set me different from my other non-jewish friends. Is jewish sensibility genetic? Love of smelly food and certain gatherings? Only saying’. Just for myself.
    Be that as it may. I fell in love with the LES partly because, after my parents divorced, when I was 11, I would come into the City to see my father every weekend and we would inevitably end up at Katz’s Deli on Houston St. My father tried me out on a couple of other place, including Reuben’s Restaurant (yep, that one) in midtown, and the cafeteria/automat on 42nd and 3rd (which stuck until they closed, when I was well into my 20’s). But Katz’s got its hook into me and it was only several years ago that I was able to pry myself away on health grounds (god, rich food!) but it remains as iconic in my memory as my father introducing me to the masses, something he was very good at – unfortunately, despite his upper middle class standing, what rubbed off on me was his working class sensibilities and then there I was!, to try and navigate those waters somehow. Not sure that I did the finessed job he did, but I did not have the family that necessitated my sacrifices — in any case, “got it” re: you father and thanks so much for sharing. Lia

    • sheilaklewis says:

      Ancestral, DNA, vs. some sort of past life tastes for foods never served in my house, probably make me a quasi lover of Eastern European cuisine, yes to kasha and blintzes, never cared for deli. But there is a nice story in your father’s preserving, albeit gastronomiclly some bit of his Jewish heritage. Now there is a story. Thanks.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Love the poetry!

  3. I love your style Sheila and the memory of the past and present so beautifully described.

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